Repentance - Part 2

Scripture: Proverbs 28:13, Hebrews 11:6
One of the hardest confessions for the average human being to make is to say, "I'm sorry." We are naturally stubborn and our pride resists the need to admit failure. What does the Bible say about confession? We can unload our burden of guilt by confession and accept by faith the promise that the Lord will forgive us.
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One of the hardest confessions for the average human being to make is one which contains the words, "I'm sorry." That streak of natural stubborn pride resists every impulse to back down or admit failure. Even in the field of religion there's a strange reluctance to follow the commandment about confessing sins to God. Whenever we talk about confession, the question generally comes up, "Why should we confess, anyway? If God is all-wise and hears everything and sees everything and knows everything, why should we go to Him and tell Him all the wrongs we've done when He already knows about them?" Now those are good and logical questions which deserve an answer.

In the first place, when God makes an invitation to us and we confess, our confession doesn't inform God so much, surely He does know about our sin already. Our confession does something wonderful for us as we exercise faith toward God. I consider that most people are human; and as human beings, sooner or later we do something to somebody else that we ought not to do, something we shouldn't do. We mistreat another man. You've done it, and I've done it. And whenever you do that, friends, you know that when you come around the person that you've mistreated, when you're close to that individual you've mistreated, you get a terrible feeling all over yourself. You sort of swell up and lose your appetite and you don't feel like talking very much until that person leaves, because, after all, you mistreated him. Yes, every time he comes around, because there's a problem between you, you don't feel good and you don't feel happy.

Finally one day you decide that you've had enough of that and that you're going to get the thing straight. The minute you decide to get it straight, you begin to feel better. Then you see your friend and you walk up to him, and if you're as I am, you feel a little embarrassed because you know you were wrong, and you put out your hand with your eyes downcast and you say to that friend, "Listen, I mistreated you." Are you telling that friend something he didn't know? If anybody knew you mistreated him, he did. Then why tell him? That's the same question I get about confession to God. But if you go through with it and that friend says to you, "It's all right, I'm glad you came. I forgive you, and from now on we can be friends again," when you turn away your heart feels light, your steps are more springy; it seems as though you're walking on a cloud. Telling your friend you've mistreated him doesn't give him some new information. Instead, it gets it off your chest so that every time you're near him now, you don't get that horrible feeling we were talking about. Actually, confessing to your friend does you more good than it does him. When we go to God and confess our sins, we're getting it off our chest; and in so doing, by faith we're able to unload the burden of our guilt. And friends, it's that burden of guilt that drives people to distraction, that takes away their peace, that doesn't allow them to sleep at night and makes them so unhappy. You can't be happy in sin. The Bible says there's no peace to the wicked. So the only way to have peace is to get it straight. And the only way to get it straight is to take your burden to the Lord in confession and leave it there. When we tell God about all the things we've done, and ask His forgiveness, we're not really informing God, but we're getting rid of the burden of sin and the guilt of sin. By faith we're taking it to God to leave it there as He has bidden us to do, and that's why we repent.

Now suppose we go through with a confession. Suppose we tell God. How do we know He heard us? First of all, I'd like to point out that God is not going to call you on the telephone and tell you that He heard you. God isn't going to write you a letter and tell you that He heard you. He's not going to send a telegram, either. Then how can we be sure that God heard us? Well, I'd like to resume where I began. All righteousness is by faith and without faith it's impossible to please Him. That's what the Bible says. Hebrews 11:6. If you don't have faith in God, there is no point in repenting anyhow. If you don't believe what God has said you might as well forget the whole thing; but if you do believe, then you've got to believe all the way. Now you say, "Believe what?" Believe His Word, of course, His promise. He's not going to send you a letter. He sent you His Word hundreds of years ago and He simply asks that you believe what He said to you. He said, "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13 All right, when you do your part, you don't need any special sign from God. All you need is just to know and believe that God did what He said He would do. Believe His Word and take Him by faith. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8. His promise is as good today as it was the day after He made it so many hundreds of years ago. God doesn't change. God isn't a man, that He should lie. Whatever God says, it shall be the truth. Therefore if I do my part, give myself to Him as He leads me; if I confess my sin, if I'm willing to turn away from my sin and ask His forgiveness, the moment I believe the promise, I am forgiven.

Now His promise is, if I confess, He will forgive. When I make my confession and then believe His promise, I am forgiven and I stand before God as though I had never sinned in all the days of my life because He takes away all my sins. He takes away all my unrighteousness. The apostle Paul says, Forget those things which are behind now and press forward to the mark of the high calling. There are two terms in the Bible that most of us are familiar with, and we're going to consider them in our message today. They're these: imparted righteousness and imputed righteousness. The apostle Paul speaks of both of them. To impute means to give credit for. To impart means to share. Now I'd like to say that once more, friends. To impute means to give credit for. To impart means to share. In order for a man to be saved in God's kingdom he must experience both kinds of righteousness, the imputed first and then the imparted.

There are two companion words that go with these terms: justification and sanctification. When a man confesses his sins and receives forgiveness by faith, he's justified in the sight of God. He's justified because God takes away his past transgressions. Now this is done through imputed righteousness. Then from that day forward, if a man wants to keep a good relationship with his God, this is accomplished through imparted righteousness, received by faith. And that process is called sanctification.

This isn't so complex as it might appear at first. Let's start again. Here's a man who has sinned for forty years. Suddenly he feels the Spirit of God tugging at his heart. He hears and understands the Word of God and he wants a changed life. He begins to feel a conviction in his soul. He gets down on his knees and begs God to forgive all of his past transgressions. This is his confession. Then he believes that God forgives him for Christ's sake. That man is justified. He was justified because God was good enough to impute the righteousness of Christ to cover forty years of sin. I know of nowhere in the Bible that this is better illustrated than in the case of the thief on the cross. That man was hanging there and he was guilty. He was not just being accused of something that he wasn't guilty of, as was true in the case of Jesus. No conspiracy had been arranged against him, as it had been against Christ. He was really a thief; the Bible called him a thief. As he was hanging there he began to hear the cries of the mob. The wine-filled leaders of Israel stood at the foot of the cross hurling their stinging accusations at Christ, and as he listened he turned his face wearily to look at the cross in the middle. He wanted to see the man who was worthy of such insults; but when he looked on the face of Christ, he saw all the purity and innocence of God Himself, and this set something turning in his soul. Maybe he remembered the reading of the book of Isaiah when he was a boy in the synagogue, that a Messiah would come and be bruised for our iniquities.

As the man thought about it and looked at Christ, faith came alive in his heart. That man who was guilty cried out for salvation and Christ promised, "Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." Friends, here is instant justification; here is instant salvation, and it was given to a man who was guilty as he could possibly be. May I say further that the Bible says, "Except a man repent and be baptized, he cannot go into the kingdom of heaven." That thief, of course, couldn't be baptized. Is Jesus violating His own word? That thief couldn't come down and be baptized, and Jesus never even asked him about it. Jesus didn't ask him how much money he had given to the poor or how much tithe he had put into the church, Jesus didn't ask him about his past life at all. He simply heard this man cry out for salvation and He gave him an instant assurance that he would eventually be saved.

How could Christ save a man without baptism when the Bible says a man must be baptized? (John 3:3,5). The answer is found three and a half years earlier when Jesus Himself walked down to the river Jordan and went out to His kinsman to be baptized in the river. John the Baptist said, "Lord, you don't need baptizing. Baptism is a symbol of burying sin, and you've not committed any sin. You don't need to be baptized." Of course Jesus agreed with him but then He said, ‘'Suffer it to be so now.'' (‘'Do it anyhow, that I might fulfill all righteousness.") You see, Christ was being baptized for all men everywhere who would be denied the privilege, who in the last hour of their lives would cry out for salvation and who could not possibly go to the river or stream to be baptized. Jesus, in His baptism, fulfilled that requirement of righteousness.

When the thief cried out for salvation the Lord said, "I'll save you." "Oh, but I haven't been baptized.'' And Jesus might have said to him, "I will impute righteousness unto you. I will give you credit for My baptism. Not only will I give you credit for My baptism, but something must go on the records to cover all the years of your life. If I take away all of your sin, then you will have no record at all. I will give you credit for My righteousness. Every time you've been a drunkard I will take it away and give you credit for my sobriety. Every time you've been an adulterer I'll take it away and give you credit for my purity. Every time you told a lie, I'll take it away and give you credit for my truthfulness." My friends, this is imputed righteousness. That's how God is able to save men who live for the devil for seventy years and come to God in the declining years of their lives. He's able to take away seventy years of their sin and give them credit for the righteousness of His only begotten Son.

Now, friends, let's get something else straight. If that thief on the cross had been able to come down from the cross, then he would have needed to be baptized. He could not have expected all of his sins to be covered by the Savior if he continued to operate in those sins. When we know the truth, we must turn to the truth. When we know about our own sins, we must stop each sin. When we know about the requirements of God, we must obey those requirements. The thief was not able to do it physically, coming down from the cross to be baptized, and so his sins were covered by Christ. And his baptism was taken care of by Christ. But we today must obey the commandments of Jesus Christ.

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